Book Review: Confessions of a GP

The book: Confessions of a GP
The author: “Dr. Benjamin Daniels”
The words I still don’t understand: locum.

Picked this book up in my latest library run. I’m glad I did as I felt extraordinarily cheated by the musical episode of Grey’s Anatomy and needed some kind of weekly doctor fix. Doctor Who not yet airing, of course.


(the only song that didn’t make me want to cringe in horror/fall asleep)

I had a brief moment of horror when I started reading the book this afternoon as some of the anecdotes seemed familiar, and having read quite a few “Confessions of a GP” type books (and, to be honest, probably all but this one in the local library) I was afraid I had made the most annoying of all library run sins: the accidental revisit. It’s happened a few times before with a reprint: new cover, sometimes a new title, looks interesting because you enjoyed it quite a few months previously. You go home, crack it open and experience deja vu by page 5, but you have to keep going until page 20 or so just to be sure. Waste!

Fortunately, this book was just a formulaic “trials and tribulations of heartwarming/depressing/silly/annoying patients on the NHS” paperback, of the type I consider buying in the WH Smith at Manchester Victoria while waiting for the first freezing Monday morning train heading towards Leeds. As expected, I learned nothing, but amusingly passed an hour or two this evening reading it while I rode out a wicked yawning fit/asthma attack.

The problem with this genre of GP tell-alls is that there’s very little medicine involved. The slice-of-life cases and occasional chapters calling for more support of the NHS all blend together and make me wonder just what targets the GPs at the hateful practice I was last registered in weren’t getting from my polite non-compliance and silly insistence on sticking with my “ain’t broke, please don’t fix” American treatment plans. I read these books more to try and understand this whole very interesting system of healthcare the UK has going. I guess I’m hoping for an insight into the bureaucracy that took a not-that-thick native English speaker four months and a lot of time wasting for both sides to get a renewable prescription for well-managed allergy and asthma. Obviously, there was a communications breakdown. I’d like to say I’m not complaining, but I am, as a poor experience is only magnified when things that I would expect as standard, such as advance appointments or helpful administrative staff, haven’t been in evidence at any point in the last year I’ve been subject to this particular surgery.

Americans need to recall that treatment on the NHS isn’t free. True, you’re not paying for it at point of service, like you might in the States. But, I’m missing over $160 a month from my paycheck: I’ve paid ballpark $2000 into the NHS in a year of employment, this does not include the prescriptions I pay for. Treatment is not free. It might be more affordable than in the States, but it is most certainly being taken out of your paycheck.

I’m a good political scientist, and I appreciate the need to pay in to support services even if you yourself aren’t using them (even schools, although that’s a separate issue the former unschooler may comment on at another time). That said, I expect a level of professionalism and support from these services when I have to make use of them. Unfortunately, in the past year, I haven’t seen that. Just to make it clear it’s not all bad, and I’m quite happy to pay in to the National Health Service in return for treatment, I had wonderful experiences in Leeds at a student practice. Efficient and sympathetic administrative staff, available appointments, and doctors who didn’t try and mess with a well-managed asthmatic’s treatment plan.

tl;dr: Not a bad book if you’re stuck in a train station and can pick it up for under a fiver. Otherwise, get it from your local library. Or, even better, just suck it up and wait for this week’s Cases column in the New York Times.

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About tara

Often heard to refrain "I left San Francisco for this?" Formerly homeschooled. Living the dirt-poor post-student expat life in various non-urban areas of England's North. Sanity preserved by cooking yummy foods for a multiple allergy diet.
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2 Responses to Book Review: Confessions of a GP

  1. TS says:

    “Locum” is de-Latinate slang for locum tenens: “place holding”, noun in the accusative “-um” signifying direct object, verb in the continuous tense. It’s slang for a sub-in staffer. You hear it a lot in Europe and not so much in the States because it’s Latin and only lawyers and doctors learn Latin, don’t ya know.

    • a. tara says:

      Although neither a lawyer nor doctor, I did know what the word is. The problem is still don’t know what the word does! Also, here in the UK, as I learned from Junior Doctors on BBC4, not all Doctors are doctors. Some are Misters. They’re also usually the ones with scalpels in surgery. This nomenclature is bonkers.

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